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Cosmopolitan Jazz with a Literary Accent

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Stacey Kent, fresh from a tour of 27 countries, was in an exultant mood on Thursday evening at Birdland. Her latest album, Breakfast on the Morning Tram (Blue Note/EMI), has enjoyed the kind of commercial success in Europe that Diana Krall’s records achieve in the United States; it also earned her a Grammy nomination for best jazz vocal album. In March she received the National Order of Arts and Letters decoration from the French culture minister.

But more significant, Breakfast, which has steadily grown on me since its release a year and a half ago, has solidified the identity of Ms. Kent, an American based in London, as the drifting Cosmopolitan Girl of jazz. The heart of the record consists of four songs, with music by Jim Tomlinson and lyrics by the novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, that enter a literary realm infrequently visited by jazz songwriters. Mr. Tomlinson, besides writing the music, is also the saxophonist in Ms. Kent’s band, playing Stan Getz to her Astrud Gilberto, and is her “chef, driver, best friend and husband,” she said.

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